Are you frequently talking about the ‘good old days’? It is probably a symptom that you are getting old! How do you bring back the youth in you? To many of us, the constant refrain is that the present is choking us and the worthwhile distraction is a fanciful flight down the memory lane about the things of the past. As Thomas Carlyle would say, ‘The past is all holy to us; the dead are all holy; even they that were wicked when alive!’ That is why it is said that the past is the only dead thing that smells sweet. Decrying the present is an eternal malady. The great old days that your father talked about were actually days of slavery under the foreign rule and how Bharati fulminated with emotion about ‘the heart that is seared when you think about those cowards’, in his words, ‘Nenju porukkudillaye…’
We reminisce in the past with pleasure, whenever the talk hinges about the lawyers’ practice in courts; of the doyens of the bar that strode the courts’ corridors; about the great judges that presided over the courts; of their judgments; In contrast, of the conduct of lawyers today, especially, of the juniors. Comparisons will be made point by point between the lawyers and judges of the yester-years and present insolent disposition amongst the youthful lawyers and the slothful ways of some of the judges.
The quality of the lawyer would be recalled as stupendous, if he was fluent in the language, with a quick recall of case laws from memory. The repartees and the wit that he was capable of generating would be topics for discussion at parties. If he had a sharp tongue and could set off a breeze in court halls, it would be an additional resource to gloat over. Objectively, all these qualities are not unique to any one particular generation. Will you not honestly concede that your son or daughter in school or college reads more and has a greater fund of knowledge than you did or had in your school or college days? He or she is perhaps more articulate than you were capable of at his or her age.
Look at the books, the number of enactments and the rich store of precedents that the present generation acquaints itself with, by the time they join the profession. Computer savvy that they are, they have enough skills to pull out in a trice in a sheet of paper all the important cases that are relevant for your cases, the cases that were followed and cases that were overruled. Many psychometricians agree that IQ levels are increasing generation after generation. Among the various causes outlined are: better nutrition, more educational toys, computers and TV programmes. Talking and writing skills are no less on the decline among the younger generation. Long winding arguments are the old lawyers’ bane. Slick presentation belongs to the emerging younger milieu. The law students of the present generation hone their skills in the art of advocacy and preparation of memorials in their moot court circuits across the globe, rubbing shoulders with the brightest in the East and the West.
One must always maintain one's connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. Nostalgia is a seductive liar! You are prone to exaggerations, while recalling events of the past. A famous writer once said, “Many are always praising the by-gone time, for it is natural that the old should extol the days of their youth; the weak, the time of their strength; the sick, the season of their vigor; and the disappointed, the spring-tide of their hopes." Not just the better days, it is certainly romantic to talk about even poverty, so long as it is in past tense; of your travel by foot or by a rickety bicycle, if you have now a car to drive by!
To look back into antiquity is one thing; to go back to it is another. Talk about stalwarts to bring home to the new generation the continuum of the great traditions that they have inherited in a way that Fali Nariman talked about, at the august occasion of unveiling the portrait of Govind Swaminathan, a towering personality that wrote himself among the greats of the Madras Bar. He recalled, “Govind never mumbled; he always completed the sentences.” Our wealth is the present generation of young lawyers and judges. Invest in them all the confidence; Help them to flower to their fullest potential; prepare them adequately to a smoother transition. As old belongs to the past, youth belongs to the future. Even the old is young if (s)he plans and strives for a bright future ahead.
As bad as you may portray to day, tomorrow ere long, will be your own good old day!